We publish this defence of the Libyan militias as we agree is essence with it despite some of the contradictory statements. We stand for the arming to be extended to all the Libyan masses, including the millions of immigrant workers and for the resisting of the disarming of the militias.  For our statement “Arm all the Libyan masses” see elsewhere on our website www.workersinternational.org.za .  This defence is important as imperialism and its agents have set a deadline of the 20th December for the militias to be disarmed. They want to extend their plan to discredit revolutionary fighters and to re-establish the brutal regime of Gaddafi without Gaddafi.

Extracts from Yusseff’s speech

 Y.: Good afternoon, I’m not used to speak through a mic, but I want to greet first of all the comrades that are here attending the meeting, all the organizations that have come to this room and I also want to thank you for this example of internationalism. I am here to respond to all the doubts you may have about the Libyan process and help you to understand it (…) We are all here in agreement to put in place and build up this Committee for the defense to the Libyan militia in Misratah, which together we waged a battle in Libya and now we are threatened to be expropriated the power that we have acquired.

I find it opportune to open the present meeting thanking the comrades from Democracia Obrera, because they were the only organization that dared to give a step forward, and though it did not participate physically in the battlefield by sending men, it made a contribution that helped throw down those lackeys of Gaddafi’s hit men.

(…) I got to Libya when Gaddafi’s army had just attacked Benghazi, and was annihilated by the rogue NATO forces, which came in time for stealing the insurrected Benghazi masses their victory. The latter had been resisting not only one month but they had been resisting three days more the attack of Gaddafi’s army and I am sure that if they had been left alone they would have resisted all along and certainly defeated that lackey army.

NATO rascals came out and went everywhere shouting “we liberated Benghazi, Benghazi has been liberated by us!” and stole the victory off the hands of the masses. (In February a terrible insurrection by the masses in Tripoli had been  smashed). An insurrection completely organized by the masses that burnt down a major state institution, people was massacred with anti-aircraft rounds.

I saw a rather well organized population, who were helping each other in solidarity. The entire production, be it of fuel, food or whatever was needed, went for the militias. The vanguard relied absolutely on the rearguard; that is, on the mothers that sent their sons to the militias, or on the worker that maybe was not ready to go and take a weapon, but had no problem in working eight hours completely to the service of the militias. This is a thorough deny of that lie, that sprayed slander that we were NATO puppets, something that smears us and makes fun of the blood spilt by all those that died at my side. I open the debate, I’m ready to answer anything you may ask me.

Q.: What was the relationship between the militias and the TNC?

Y: We in the militia lived in the battle front. We had a common enemy that was this rubbish of a dictator and his regime. This word, the TNC is something that you begin to hear when you come out of Libya, because it had no weight, there was not any institution or person that represented it. There was nobody who reigned over us. Everything was totally anarchical, there was an organized chaos, there was no individual, or organ, even less a building that represented that so much spoken-of TNC, which furtherly intended to steal from the Libyan masses the revolution those masses had begun. We had not any relationship with those people (of the TNC, NT) because we did not see them in the battlefront. Everything they did was far from the actual combats and out of our sight.

Q: What was NATO’s role in the battlefront?

Y: I can boast without shame when affirming that all along our combat, all the bullets we shot came from our guns; no foreign soldier, be it American, French, British, etc., fought at any given time alongside us. Every weapon, as for example this that I have taken with me to show you, a Russian bayonet, we took from an enemy soldier that we killed; because nobody parachuted guns or grenade throwers for us, nothing came to help us from their planes (applauses). We had not state of the art fine weapons: we had Kalashnikovs, AK-47, which are of course from year ’47! We defended ourselves with those apt weapons, and besides we expropriated weapons from the enemy. We began with steel bars, wooden sticks, rocks and gasoline bombs (a.k.a. molotovs).  At no time we had any “allied attack” by NATO that saved us from anything. I have a metal splinter in my head and another three scattered in my body, because a RPG bomb thrown by a Gaddafist tank exploded near me, while dirty NATO ineffectual planes roared far high in the sky. But luckily enough they never meddled with us nor robbed our victory. Everything was accomplished thanks to our comrades’ blood, sweat and efforts. NATO only appeared to ultimately expropriate the revolution.

Let me tell you an anecdote. The revolution was already two and a half months old and we had expropriated around 40 tanks. We had displayed the tanks on the desert around Brega –second city behind Benghazi- to enter the city straightforwardly by advancing to the west. We were ready to enter Brega, and go on up to Sirt to break down Gaddafi’s army there, and thereafter join the insurrected Misratah masses to get together to Tripoli at last and liberate those revolutionaries that were hiding, working clandestinely because the bulk of them had been massacred.

NATO allowed itself the pleasure of “not recognizing” those tanks (or better, of recognizing that they were in the hands of the Libyan people) and bombed them to bits, with the militias manning them inside and all; our infantry that was marching behind the tanks was also badly hit. You have here the “participation” that NATO had for the sake of the insurrection, such was the way through which, little by little, by means of their bombings, the stealing of the revolution, of this insurrection, or the facilitation of the expropriation of this insurrection was carried on by NATO in favor of people that had not fought a single day.

Q: What was the militias’ reaction when you had the first news about NATO military intervention?

Y: It’s very well-known that the first days of the insurrection there was a lot of panic. There was a very frightened rearguard. Many people fled to Egypt when the rubbish of the dictator army was coming nearer. Those people that fled to Egypt and were not able to go to the battlefront because they didn’t dare to or because they did not understand what was going on… they were the same that in some moment lifted here and there some French flags, as I believe the TV channels showed, but they were a minority. Most of the people knew for sure that if and when any NATO trash dared to trample on Libyan soil, nobody –I am speaking particularly of the militias- would have the least doubt at blowing up the heads of the invaders, as we would never allow for a situation as that of Iraq or Afghanistan to take place again.

Q: Why do you say that the relationship of the TNC with the militia amounts to nil? How does a fighting force get military supplies if it does not have the backing of the TNC?

Y: The TCN has been able to impose its domination when it enters Tripoli and gets a hold on it.  They manage to expropriate –to put that move a name- the uprising of the masses in Tripoli. It was something rather organized beforehand. We were resisting in Misratah, thereafter we passed to Zilten that is within a stone’s throw of Tripoli, and overnight the militias that were coming from the east reach Tripoli and enter it. When we were marching into the city, we noticed that the army had suddenly stopped bombarding us…; we realized it was not there anymore! It had disappeared! In those 150 km not any trace of a war camp…; only dispersed skirmishes. The army together with NATO forces had helped Gaddafi to flee from Tripoli in a strongly armed convoy; if NATO had been willing to destroy it… it was perfectly visible for their planes, for if they had been capable to distinguish me and wound me with their rounds… How is it possible than they could not see a strongly armed convoy, which was escorted by all that war machines that were besieging us in Misratah!?

So, we make our victorious entrance to Tripoli, where we find a feeble resistance but we cannot find the dictator’s head. There is where they deceive us, as many times before. They send us to Sirt, where a great wearing out of the militia is produced. Thus, they empty a sector of Tripoli, they send away the militias and make room for them in the sector where the institutions have their buildings; they take the houses of the former Gaddafist officers who try to legitimize the TNC, so they try to legitimize the authority of the TNC through those rogues that say they have reneged Gaddafi and embraced democracy but they are of the same breed.

The most rebellious masses –or the masses that disavow the TNC- are the masses in Misratah, because their victory could not be expropriated by anybody, no NATO bomb was thrown there that helped destroy Gaddafi’s tanks, the masses destroyed them in the beginning with their steel bars and their petrol bombs. Misratah militia are who do not recognize today the authority of the TNC, which cannot disarm them, because the TNC knows that the it would be thrown down if it attempts right now to disarm them. It is necessary to understand that they are Moslem masses that are also influenced by their religion.  With all kinds of tricks and deceptions, I think the TNC has been able to impose, partially at least some kind of stability.

Chatting with my comrades in Tripoli and Benghazi these last days, in spite of being the phone communications rather difficult and the words we use –for security reasons- somewhat disguised, I am in the capability of telling you that there are at this time military clashes (with “some isolated pockets of Gaddafist resistance”, NT), and with that excuse the TNC is trying to coopt the militia and make them enter the new (unified, NT) “national army”. But there are a number of people that are looking at what is happening and making their experience about the TNC not being better than Gaddafi. Contrariwise, it is the same or worse rubbish.

Another anecdote: There was a former Gaddafist general, who was Gaddafi’s right-hand man when it came to repress the Libyan people, a military leader that had been at Gaddafi’s side for the last forty years. He was who impeded the advance of the militias; he was constantly putting obstacles in their way, or gave contradictory orders so that they withered away. He made them march to the forefront, and then he called them back, and they were constantly losing comrades. That former Gaddafist general was executed by a sector of the militias; after that the militias could advance displaying their whole power; obviously they had casualties, but they could impose their continuous march up to Sirt’s gates.

Q: What was the percentage of internationalist militants that went to fight there, and what was the degree of political discussion that goes on within the militias? Do they discuss the idea of “expropriation”, of taking power or of defending the ongoing revolution?

Y: We can mention the Palestinians, I don’t know in what numbers. There were many Egyptians too, they weren’t a great majority but you could find them either in the forefront or working in the rearguard. In the rearguard there were also many Filipinos, Bosnians, and others that collaborated with the militias. I was chatting a whole afternoon with a comrade that manned an anti-aircraft device in one of those expropriated 4-runners. He was deeply attached to the Libyan cause and linked it to the Palestinian cause.

The topic of expropriation and of disavowing the imposed authorities was always being discussed. During the time I was there the objective was to smash the dictator’s head. Everybody had it crystal clear that we weren’t to hand him down to NATO, or to The Hague (War Crimes Tribunal, NT), or least of all to the TNC. He who had the luck of capturing Gaddafi was to put no less than three bullets into his head; that was vox populi; that was in everybody’s mouth. In the moment that the insurrections began, and they were rather hard-handed, the entire production was expropriated and put in solidarity with the (fighting, NT) masses and their collaborators. So, it is obvious that the discussion of expropriating and producing for the people was constantly in the air from the beginning.

Q: What was the age of the militia-men and what pushed you to take part in the militias? 

Y: Our militia group named itself “February 17 Revolution of the youth”, because it was a revolution driven mostly by the young men between their 17 and 27s. Obviously there were also older men, but the main number was made of the youth.

(About the second question)… To arrive at a country that had been sold to me as being “socialist”, through the media, with the red flag and everything, an egalitarian country, a country where everybody earned the same wage… and then, the misery and squalor that stood out to our eyes, as I explained before, with the sewers damming up, all the stink and the dirt, the starving people without a meager crust to put in their children’s mouths. And the wide gap between those associated to the government and the working people… I think that was the starter that pushed me to participate.

Q: So, it was what you saw? 

Y: That was what I lived and experienced in my own flesh. In the battlefront sometimes we ate a good meal, sometimes we had a watery sauce with some beans floating in it and some crusts of bread. That gives you a glimpse of the living standards in this country, where you may dig a hollow with a baby’s toy-spade and oil gushes forth… but at the same time you have people starving to death.

Q: What was the role played by the workers, specifically as a social sector? Did any organizational gain remain, beyond the militias, as working class organizations?

Y: There you had a long standing dictatorship, where any kind of organization, be it a working class one or something of any other character was completely banned, even if it was in the name of the (Gaddafist, NT) “Revolution”. If any “organization” did not ask the permit to exist from the government, or if it didn’t pass the government inquisition, not deserving the approval from the rubbish of the dictator, it was obvious that its fate was to be massacred. This thing of the labor unions and so on and so forth, is a novelty, after 40 years in the grasp of the dictatorship. The militias were composed by workers. My comrades were tax drivers, all kind of manual workers, mechanists, metalworkers, truck drivers from the oil companies, construction workers, oil workers from the oil-wells, etc. It is written in their hands, you can look at them in the photos.

This thing of the “labor organizations” is something new, a movement for the building of unions began to be organized, I don’t know if I can put it that name… it would be a group representing the working class. That was just beginning to be built. Obviously the clear and foremost objective was to overthrow the dictator and finish this dictatorship for good to end starvation and misery; the militias and all the militia-men that were there, were expressing –albeit not with words, but with the language of the guns- the working class interests.

Q: How did you communicate among yourselves? 

Y: The technology used by the enemy was communication through radio, by walkie-talkie; as those instruments were expropriated -in the clashes with the enemy- we could communicate better. At the beginning everything was spontaneous, completely anarchical; there was neither communication nor any kind of organization among us. As we could expropriate more and more technological devices from the (Gaddafist) army we could arm ourselves and organize better. Many of the 4-runners that we expropriated from the dictatorship, which seem to be Toyotas, are actually Chinese 4-runners that the dictator had purchased for propaganda aims; he had promised to hand them down (albeit in exchange of paying for long years very low installments) to every person that had been born on the same date of the anniversary of his “Revolution”. But those vehicles were rejected by the people and remained unused, slowly rusting in the ports. When the insurrection bursts, the first thing the masses do is to go and find out a rapid means of transport. Immediately the people recalled the vans and expropriated them and together with the metalworkers and the rank and file soldiers, they began to arm them with artillery to put them to the service of the militias and the insurrection.

Q: In the moment Gaddafi is captured, some Spanish speaking voices are heard. Was there anyone from Latin America there?

Y: I didn’t know anyone Spanish-speaking there. Perhaps it was a journalist, or someone with a dual citizenship, or even someone from Latin America, who in a great internationalist gesture had gone to support the insurrected masses. But I only heard Arabian.

Q: The death of Gaddafi was coordinated with NATO… Is that true?

Y: I don’t know what media gathered that news… What I actually heard is that NATO claims that victory for itself. And that rotten garbage of Obama goes public with a warm greeting for the deed. After that, the videos appear in Internet showing that it had been the achievement of the masses, who executed Gaddafi and lifted his head. I think that when NATO and the imperialists saw that they could not sustain any more that big lie i.e., that they had taken part in Gaddafi´s death, they began to condemn my comrades, some of whom I could see and recognize in the videos. Now the TNC and the imperialists are going out to get them, to judge my comrades that had executed the filthy dictator by their own hands. I totally disavow anybody who says NATO was part in that act of justice, and I think that the facts are belying the falsifiers because if NATO had been part in the action it wouldn’t be condemning those that shot him in an act of popular justice.

Q: Which was the overall reaction, and particularly that of yours when watching the execution of Gaddafi?

Y: It was an honor; I felt an euphoric sensation, a tremendous happiness when I recognized those that had been with me in the trenches, together with whom I shed tears, comrades that shared with me the chill of the early morning, the hunger of midday and the nightly exhaustion. For us they are heroes. We fought together and together gave our lives. And our lives we would give for them.  We thoroughly condemn the attitude by the UN and the TNC of wanting them judged, that is also judging us, because all of us feel part in the justified death of the dictator.

Q: How did the militias treat anyone that was captured?

 Y: In Misratah all the servants to Gaddafi were executed by popular hands, that is, everyone that had increased his/her capital thanks to his/her relationship with the dictator. Almost everybody who had been a “shareholder of the regime” was executed. About the Gaddafist soldiers that had been abandoned, if they resisted and continued shooting at us, it was natural that we responded their attack. If they rendered themselves they were considered as war prisoners, so they were respected. The first thing that a Moslem does with a prisoner is to offer him water, a roof and food; so, we based ourselves in those traditional laws.

Q: How did you manage to fight? Did you share the technology? Did the hospitals work? What did the common masses do?

Y: The masses were absolutely at the disposal of the militias; the hospitals operated completely free as well; from time to time a truck crossed the Egyptian border bringing inputs, and that was put to the service of the masses. If you had an inflamed appendix you could go to the hospital and you would be cared for accordingly. Everything was very fraternal and there was solidarity from the rearguard of the masses towards the vanguard that were the militias.

Our training was directly in the battles, the victory and the defeat of every day. Some of us were people that for the first time in their lives had a rifle in their hands, the first time they loaded a chamber with bullets. And it was the first time they saw the effect that that rifle caused to another human being, something rather shocking. We had no military training; it was simply a case of imitating the acts of the most daring one of us. Of going behind him who crossed the cartridge belt around his neck and went forward. And to take advantage of the experience of the rank and file soldiers that had deserted the army and gone to the militias.

Q: What was the role of the women?

Y: The women played a role in the rearguard, they distributed food. An important accomplishment was to form –in spite of all the constraints of the Islamic religion- a group of women that armed themselves in self-defense, because the Gaddafist soldiers used to come and rape them. So we gave them weapons for them to be able to defend themselves.

Q: Were you in a combat together with a friend of yours?

 Y: Yes. When I got to Misratah I knew a lawyer, a leftist thinker, a cadre. He had traveled to Ukraine to know the first steps and the roots of Trotsky’s. He began being a Castroite and afterwards he became a Trotskyist. He was very lucid, in the battlefront as in the rearguard. At a political level we shared a lot of discussions as well as we fought together many battles. Unfortunately he became a martyr, he fell on the battlefield. Let’s hope that this internationalist declaration and this Committee that you are impelling will serve to avenge the death and the blood of my friend. We have already given a step forward; with the head of Gaddafi we could begin to avenge our martyrs.

Q: How was Gaddafi’s bunker?

Y: It had a wall all around about 3 or 4 meters thick, the bullets of a semi-automatic rifle could not pierce right through it. It had common graves were we found comrades that had been fusilladed and dungeons where we found comrades imprisoned, political prisoners. The bunker had big stores full of ammo and weapons, and a complete neighborhood of houses for privileged people, with TV sets and all the commodities that lackeys of imperialism and collaborators to the regime who lived near the dictator could dream of. There was also the big tent of the dictator. We found the dictator’s gold platted machine gun. You could see there in all its extent Gaddafi´s “socialism”, the society that Gaddafi was selling, a complete farce, the maximum expression of a big lie.

Q: Was there any talk of spreading the fight to the rest of the countries”

 Y: There was always a phrase: “after Tripoli, Jerusalem”. That was the popular cry in support of the Palestinian masses.

Q: What will happen with the militias?

Y: The last news I have from my comrades, rather fresh news is that the TNC is trying to coopt them for the new national army of the TNC. Let’s hope it cannot accomplish that purpose. You see… There have been 9 months of a terrible war; they are completely tired of the ceaseless battles, plenty of fighting, starvation and sufferings. And taking into account that there is a lack of a strong Revolutionary Party in Libya, we have to build up very quickly this Committee in Defense of the Insurrected Masses in Misratah and all across Libya, so that the masses cannot be deceived and defeated.

René: I belong to the Movement of Immigrant Bolivian Seamstresses (in Argentina, NT) and some weeks ago, just when Gaddafi was being killed, the government of Evo Morales was very near to being overthrown by the fighting masses of the T.I.P.N.I.S. There in Libya, do people recognize the existence of the treacherous left; the World Social Forum and the executioners of the working class that today exist? Are those rascals known among the militias, the citizens of Misratah, of Libya, of Egypt? What are they doing in order to strangle that rubbish?

Y: First of all, applause for the comrade and for the struggle of the Bolivian comrades! In the artistic expressions that are sold in all the insurrected cities (in Libya, NT), Gaddafi is depicted waving a US flag, with an Israeli Star, so he is associated with Zionism. He is recognized as a lackey to imperialism. Nobody speaks about the WSF and the rest, but everybody knows that Gaddafi as well as Ben Ali, as Hosni Mubarak, as el-Assad, including the dictators in Iran… all of them are recognized as enemies of the insurrectional process.

Q: When you went short of ammo, what did you do?

Y: In a war that is the most catastrophic situation you can come into. Our level of organization was almost all the time based on saving the bullets. No shootings to the air: that meant 30 dead enemies less! There were moments when the Kalashnikovs, as there was a shortage of bullets 762 or 31, got deprived of ammo. We were saved by the anti-aircraft and the FAL bullets that we found in Benghazi garrison and that could be transported to Misratah.  Some offensives were planned and carried on to steal the bullets from the enemy or to take them from the fallen soldiers. But although we sometimes were short of ammo, we were never completely without bullets. In case we risked falling in the hands of that rubbish of our enemy the comrade that headed us had a grenade with him, so that we could die instead of being taken prisoner.

Q: What political discussions were held in the militia? Did you debate about the continuation of the struggle?

Y: The discussions were amidst the conditions the militias were in, and taking into consideration their condition of being -as militias-, wholly precarious forces. Even when the discussions about the future occurred sometimes, we lived mostly the day to day life. The first thing we wanted to do was to get rid of the dictator, because we knew that in this case, NATO had to go away and leave alone the Libyan sky. Those were the political discussions that were on the order of the day. Another topic of the agenda was the solidarity with Tunisia and Egypt, and overall the solidarity with the insurrected Palestinian masses. The idea was about forming something that could act in solidarity with all the movements that are fighting in the North of Africa and in the Middle East.

…………………………………………….   

The following is a fragment of an interview to Yusseff Mohammad al-Arjentiny, after he signed adhering to the international campaign for the Defense of the Insurrected Masses of Libya and their working class and people’s fighting organizations.

 “The continuity of the weapons in the hands of the people is the only guarantee for the advance of revolution. It is necessary to defend this elemental right! So the first step is to defend the militia-men that executed the dictator, who are being persecuted by the government under the orders of NATO”

What happened with the offensive over Sirt to get rid of Gaddafi?

Y: The imperialists didn’t want the militias to execute the dictator. They were negotiating his retreat. And ultimately they wanted to be who appeared as defeating Gaddafi. However, there, as in many battles, the militias bypassed the imperialist encirclement and advanced over their objectives. I want to tell you something: there was a great clarity in the whole population regarding what was necessary to do with Gaddafi. Everybody said, “Never to hand down Gaddafi to them!” That’s why those who executed him are considered heroes by the majority of the people. It is not accidental that the government and the imperialists have questioned the execution, attacking the militia that took it in their hands. That’s why the great task now is to prevent the TNC, NATO, UNO, from judging and condemning them; it is necessary to defend the overall armament of the people!

How did the militia and the sectors controlled by them work?

Y: All the factories and big facilities were in the hands of the workers and the people. Everything that was expropriated was shared fairly among everyone; the food, the fuel, the bread, the water, under the control of committees of workers and common people. I took upon me that function for a while in the rearguard together with the committees. Then when we were fighting we ate a kind of tomato or sweet pepper watered sauce with some floating beans in it, where we soaked our crumbs. When we managed to take a position from the hands of the enemy or to enter a military neighborhood (who in their majority lived a luxurious life) of a seized town we shared among us the best food we could find.

The militias, besides organizing the life of the people and delivering the goods expropriated by the masses, granted the administration of justice. The sectors that had been nearest to the regime, specially the more corrupted and bloodthirsty ones were straightforwardly executed. Those sectors that could be still won over to our side, we tried to sum them up to the resistance forces. Misratah is a very militant city because there all the sectors related to the dictatorship were executed. Popular justice was healthy, and served as an example.

How was Gaddafi’s image among the population?

Y: The discourse with which Gaddafi ascends to power, in the first years is an “anti-imperialist” one; he speaks of a regime that is going to bring “equality for everybody”. That the elders defended those ideas and the youth hate him for doing exactly the opposite, I thinks shows the anti-imperialist consciousness of the Libyan people

I was told that his alignment with Bush supporting the US war against Afghanistan and Iraq was felt with disgust by the population.  It was also very much rejected the government policy of appeasing the Zionists. The Libyan people have a strong anti-Zionist consciousness; not an anti-Jew one, because the people distinguishes very clearly the Jewish religion from the policies applied by the State of Israel. Libyan people admire Palestinians for their many year’s old struggle, and also the workers and people in Egypt and Tunisia that have defeated their dictators.

What future do the Libyan people foresee?

 Y: as far as I know nobody speaks about elections or similar things. But there is not much clarity either about the policies that should be applied. What is very clear, however, is the necessity of not surrendering the weapons acquired, because they understand that the possession of a gun is the best guarantee to defend their rights, of not being trampled. Many militia-men, many people had to risk their lives to get a gun to defend himself. Sometimes three workers were murdered aiming to get a rifle, so that for them the gun is not only a fighting tool, it is the symbol of spilt blood that they do not want to surrender.

This is something very important and has to be defended, all over the world, preventing the government and imperialism from de-mobilizing the militias. There is currently an international campaign for isolating the armed people, mounted by political sectors that claim to be leftists, but in fact they work together with the TBC and NATO; the isolation of the militias would allow the TNC and NATO start an offensive to disband or kill the militias. The continuity of the overall armament of the people is the only guarantee for the revolution to advance. It is necessary to unite all of us that are ready to defend this elemental right of the masses! For this to be attained we have to begin by defending the militias that executed the dictator, that are currently persecuted by the government under the orders of NATO. Luckily, in that sense there have been already some rallies in defense of them in Benghazi.